These Vegan Pumpkin Bourbon Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting are officially the BEST cupcake of Fall! Moist & soft eggless pumpkin cupcakes topped with a frosting made with real maple syrup and a crumble of bourbon pecans on top? It doesn't get any better than this!
You may remember the Spiked Mulled Cider recipe I shared a few days ago that I originally created for World Market. Well, these cupcakes are another recipe I created for them that I loved so much I just had to share on SGTO too!
When it comes to September, I pretty much give up on all Summer foods and start making all things PUMPKIN. Just check out my Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, Pumpkin Truffles, or my Vegan Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting from last year as proof!
This year I'm leaning into pumpkin even more and am bringing you a recipe that truly has the best flavors of Fall. Pumpkin spice, maple syrup, warm & caramel-flavored bourbon, and a pecan topping. Can we say YES?!
Tipsto make vegan pumpkin cupcakes
Rather than go into the recipe step by step (which is already in the recipe card below!) I figured I would share a few of my favorite tips & tricks for making these pumpkin cupcakes soft, fluffy, and SO darn good.
Oh, and did I mention these eggless & dairy-free pumpkin cupcakes can be made in ONE BOWL and are ready in 30 minutes or less?! YES PLEASE!
Always use pastry/cake flour
This is a big one when it comes to making cupcakes from scratch. Sure I have made the occasional cake or cupcake with all-purpose flour, BUT I recommend pastry flour over AP flour any day. This is because pastry flour has less protein and therefore leads to a more tender and lighter cake texture.
Unlike cookies and cinnamon rolls where we want a higher protein to encourage gluten development when it comes to cupcakes, less protein is always better because we don't want gluten to form.
P.S- If you only have all-purpose flour on hand, here's a fun trick. Measure the flour, but then replace 2 Tbsp per cup of all-purpose flour with 1 Tbsp of cornstarch. Believe me, it will help make the cake lighter and is a hack that actually works!
Always measure in grams
I know I know- I used to be one of those people who didn't own a scale and measured in cups. But here's the thing, measuring in cups is WILDLY inaccurate. And when it comes to cupcakes, 1-2 Tbsp of extra flour can lead to cupcakes that are dry and too dense. Needless to say, I'm a scale convert these days!
Don't overmix the batter
If you overmix the batter, too much gluten will form and your cupcakes risk turning out dense and rubbery. That's why I always recommend mixing the batter JUST until all large clumps and streaks of flour are gone.
I also highly recommend using a whisk to mix vs. a spoon. It helps to break up those clumps of flour in the batter and incorporates air into the batter when mixing.
Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting
One of the questions I always get asked is- how do you pipe your cupcakes so well?! Well, I will go into that in more detail below, but the first tip I will share is that I always make sure my vegan pumpkin spice cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting. Don't skip this step or your frosting will melt right off!
A little bourbon goes a long way!
We are only using 2 Tbsp of bourbon in this recipe, but a little goes a long way! While the batter might not taste great at first (as it has alcohol in it), during cooking the alcohol will burn off and you will be left with the caramel and barrel flavor notes of the bourbon. I used Makers Mark Bourbon in this recipe and highly recommend it.
While I don't recommend adding any more bourbon to the batter (it will affect the consistency) if you want more bourbon flavor feel free to add 1-2 tsp to the frosting for flavor!
How to make vegan maple frosting
To bring these vegan maple bourbon pumpkin cupcakes to the next level, I decided to top them with a vegan maple buttercream frosting! This frosting contains 4 easy ingredients.
The first step to making vegan frosting is always to cream the butter until no clumps remain. Then, whip in the maple syrup. After that, gradually add in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until it is all mixed in. Once it is all mixed in continue beating 2-3 minutes to make this frosting REALLY fluffy.
My #1 trick to piping vegan frosting:
Okay as I mentioned above, the first step is to always make sure your cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting.
Fill a piping bag with frosting. Then, BEFORE piping, add the piping bag full of frosting to the fridge for 5-10 minutes. After that, get piping!
Seriously this is my big "trick". Vegan frosting will always be softer than traditional buttercream frosting (it's oil-based and doesn't contain any real butter after all). But, just 5-10 minutes in the fridge to firm up leads to frosting that is still soft, yet pipeable.
P.S- I decided to top these cupcakes with Maple Bourbon Pecans I bought at World Market. However, any candied pecan will work!
FAQ & Substitutions:
For sure! Maple syrup or simple syrup works 1:1 as a substitute. Just know it will change the overall flavor of the cupcakes.
Here is the Torani Pumpkin Pie Syrup I used. To make your own simple syrup just mix equal parts water and granulated sugar over a stove top until the sugar dissolves. You could even add in a little pumpkin pie spice to flavor it
I haven't tried but it should work. Just replace the sugar 1:1 with coconut sugar or maple sugar (not syrup) and make sure it is granulated. As mentioned above, the simple syrup part of the recipe can be subbed for maple syrup.
I don't recommend making the frosting refined sugar-free as powdered sugar truly works best. However, if you can make your own powdered sugar from maple sugar or coconut sugar, that may work. Alternatively, you could top these cupcakes with the maple cashew frosting I used in my Vegan Carrot Cake recipe for a healthier refined sugar-free option.
I haven't personally tested it but if you do I recommend only using a 1:1 GF flour substitute. Almond flour, coconut flour, or other grain-free flour varieties do not work as a 1:1 substitute.
Leftover cupcakes store best in the freezer for up to 1 month in a closed container. They can also be stored in the fridge for 5-7 days, but this tends to dry out the cake a bit so I don't recommend it.
I also don't recommend storing them at room temperature if they are frosted as the vegan frosting tends to melt in a few hours.
If you are freezing the cupcakes, just let them defrost at room temperature 30-45 minutes before serving and they are usually perfect!
I truly hope you love these Vegan Pumpkin Bourbon Cupcakes with Maple Frosting as much as I do! They are officially a Fall favorite and, according to my taste tester friends, are one of the BEST cupcake flavors I've made to date. Making vegan cupcakes without eggs is easier than you may think and just as delicious. Enjoy!
More vegan cupcake recipes you will love:
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Vegan Pumpkin Bourbon Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Pumpkin Bourbon Cupcakes:
- 1 ⅔ cup pastry flour see notes on using AP flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice can be subbed 1:1 for ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- ½ cup oat milk any plant-based milk works s substitution 1:1
- ½ cup sugar grams
- ¼ cup Pumpkin Pie syrup can be subbed 1:1 for maple syrup or homemade simple syrup
- 3 Tablespoons oil olive oil recommended but any liquid oil works
- 2 Tablespoons Bourbon
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maple Pecan Frosting:
- 1 cup vegan butter cold, I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
- 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar measured, then sifted
- ¼ cup candied pecans crumbled/crushed for topping
First, Make the Pumpkin Bourbon Cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a USA muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- In a small mixing bowl, sift together the pastry flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda. Set aside for later.
- In a large mixing bowl, add in all the remaining wet ingredients including the canned pumpkin puree, sugar, Torani Pumpkin Pie syrup, Bourbon, oat milk, vanilla extract, and oil. Then, whisk together to combine.
- Next, add the bowl of sifted dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix JUST until a thick batter forms and no large streaks of flour remain. It’s important not to overmix the batter for the best texture.
- Use a cookie scoop or ladle to fill each muffin liner with batter until it is about ⅔ full. Tap the pan on the counter right before baking to release any large air bubbles. Then, add to the oven and bake at 350F for 17-19 minutes.
- Once baked, remove the cupcakes from the pan immediately and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Make the Maple Pecan Frosting:
- Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the maple pecan frosting. Start by adding the vegan butter to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and creamy, about 2 minutes. Then, add in the maple syrup and beat together another 30 seconds.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time and whip into the frosting. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, whip the frosting for another 2-3 minutes until white and fluffy.
- The frosting will be semi soft, so it is recommended to add the bowl of frosting to the fridge for 10-15 minutes before piping.
- To pipe the frosting, add to a large piping bag and pipe evenly onto each cupcake. Then, top each cupcake with the crumbled maple bourbon pecan pieces. Serve and enjoy!